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  1. #1
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    Flakes and nuts - where do I fit?

    Since taking up mountain bikes, as a normal dude in my early 40's, I've struggled with how I fit in to things. Not that it's terribly important, but like any community you start to recognize how others do what they do and if it jives with you.

    I live in an area that's pretty rich in riding, a big community of people and the trails are almost always populated with other riders. And, I know a lot of people who ride so I'm surrounded by people who do this. I am pretty gregarious and ride with anyone I can when I can, but I've found it pretty hard.

    What I've noticed that makes me "not fit in" is that I'm not serious enough about it to be a masochist, and far too serious for people who just dip their toes in and proclaim themselves mountain bike riders.

    Its feels odd. Maybe because it's such a physical sport, but it seems very hard to find people who ride like you do.

    I've tried many times to ride with friends or people I know who are into it, and it is almost always a complete mismatch of personality. I know a group that rides a lot and if I tag along I'm always welcome and they are good guys, but they devote the whole day to a trail, ride long and hard, and have the best equipment. I struggle to keep up, and I don't have the time to keep my endurance up to their levels. On any ride, they stop and wait and when I arrive, they take off again. I'm at the back of the pack, feeling like an anchor...and they get rest while I get tortured. As much as I'd like to ride at their level, I'm not going to get there and work the hours I do, and I don't enjoy riding with them. I end up bailing out well before they're done, and then I'm just by myself anyway. And, this is not a critique of these riders, it's cool that they're into it but I can't be like they are.

    The other end are the very casual riders I know. They're a hodgepodge of personalities, but the common thing with them is they seldom ride, have even less stamina than I do, and can't be counted on to show up or finish even a short ride. Some of them have $3,000 bikes, and lack the skill to ride them, or they have a nice enough bike and the skills, but don't show up. And, there I am riding alone again.

    Anyone else find themselves kind of on a weird island of being alone on their bike? I'm cool with it most days...I ride a local trail that's on my way to work a couple times a week. It's just an exercise routine at this point, really, which is cool but any "fun" ride I do I end up by myself, or trying to cajole people into it. And, I hate riding trails alone. I'm not a loner, and I worry about getting hurt by myself. It just takes the fun out of it, plus it's just lonely. Working out I'm fine with, but sometimes a buddy makes a ride fun.

    I can't really change my level of involvement, just as I can't change how other people ride or are interested in it, so I make my peace with the fact that for me it's just going to be a spinning class that moves around on the dirt.

    I dunno, is my parking lot posing turning off the normal weekend warriors? Do I need to to put personals out? What's the etiquette on that? Craigslist ad with pictures of your junk? So confusing.
    "Wait, this thing doesn't have a motor?" - Socrates

  2. #2
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    Your not alone if it makes you feel any better. This can be a difficult age because a lot of people are doing the family thing. Trying to get my riding buddies together is like getting the planets to align. Here in Mass we have nemba which offers local rides for all skill levels, which has been a great resource for finding riders of similar abilities. Most of the time however I just ride solo and go around the 4 foot drops instead of over them. Ride when you can and enjoy the hell out of it!

  3. #3
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    Yup, you're not alone. Thank goodness I have a neighbor I've become friends with and we will go for a ride as time permits. With work and a family life it can get challenging at times just to figure out when I am going to go for a ride.

    None the less finding someone to ride with on a regular basis that is similar to the skill level/capability as yourself. I've been lucky and have found a few meetup.com groups that organize some fun rides. When push comes to shove I don't mind riding alone though. Sometimes it's nice to ride your own pace and just enjoy the outdoors.

  4. #4
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    I'm on the same boat. I own and drive a 18-wheeler over the road. I'm away from my home weeks at a time. I carry a cheap DJ bike with me, but I don't get to ride it often.

    I look like I'm in decent shape on surface, but I got no endurance. I tagged along a local club's weekend rides a couple of times last summer while I was at home, with the outcome similar to yours - I never get rest as I was always trying to catch up.

    And I have nobody to ride with in the town. There's one dude I met at China Peak. He has a big DH bike, but I've never seen him riding around town. All other riders are either homeless guys riding Walmart bikes, or little kids on BMXs.

    I've always ridden by myself for the most part, but it sure would be nice to find someone who would nudge me outside of my comfort zone every now and then. I really don't mind riding alone, but I tend to become complacent and not try anything new as frequently as I should.

  5. #5
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    I ride with people of all abilities. Fortunately I can kind of keep up with faster riders(so they don't have to wait too much), I have good technical riding skills from years of woods racing dirt bikes, but I also don't mind riding with slower riders and just being "social" with them. I'm there for the fun of it all and I can have fun doing about anything.
    I could care less about "fitting in" with any one group. I'm well beyond the "fitting in" stage of life.
    Actually I've kind of been that way all my life. In high school I ate lunch with the nerds, I played sports and fit in well there, and when I went out on the weekend it was with the "heads".
    Today I ride a road bike, a mountain bike, I golf(5 handicap), fish(bass and trout, spinning and fly), hunt(bow and rifle), I duck hunt and I bird watch. I have a bass boat and a kayak. I have a VW Bug and a Ford Excursion. I still have my dirt bike. I wear a helmet but if someone doesn't want to wear one, hey it's their life not mine. Life's too short to be wrapped up in one segment of society. And those on either end that think the other is "whatever" are just closed-minded.
    Last edited by bigbadwulff; 11-20-2012 at 08:41 AM.
    2007 Cdale Caffeine 29er Lefty.
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  6. #6
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    I end up riding alone alot. I am 38 years old with a family and good shape, but I don't have the free time to ride all day long. I get my rides in when I can and when I do I tend to hammer it out. I want to maximize my riding time and minimize my BS time. I get maybe 3 hrs a week to ride trails and want to get in 3hrs of riding not 1 hr of BS time. So for me riding alone is key. I can go when I need to, ride where and the pace I want and then be home before I get in trouble for being out with the boys too long.

    So it is hard...
    Last edited by JoePAz; 11-20-2012 at 11:06 AM.
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    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  7. #7
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    I too usually ride alone because I'm such a suck-wind and don't have the endurance to keep up with many riders. But then again, I haven't put much effort into finding riders my speed. I'm content to noodle along or hammer as it suits me.
    Use it, use it, use it while you still have it.

  8. #8
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    I just wrote a long and rambling post. First, a bit of background - I race and tend to finish mid-pack in Sport class. Lately, late mid-pack. Although I've been doing better on the track... Anyway, I fall into the tail of a racers' group, or sometimes fit in but work a lot harder, but do a lot of waiting on a club ride.

    When I first moved to my current city, I rode for a while with a club that mostly rode road bikes shockingly slowly and got drunk. I like to go fast and I can't drink, so it was a pretty bad match. However, I did meet a bunch of other riders that way, and some of them also ride athletically. I also ride with a team.

    This season, I've done a lot of riding with a couple of my friends from the alcoholic group. One of them in particular turns out to be a really good match for my general pace and ability. I organize my own rides via Facebook, or go on rides that my friends are organizing the same way.

    It sounds like you feel like nobody in the fast group is a great match for you. This actually may not be true, there could be a couple guys who are just barely hanging on, and would be quite happy to take it back a notch. But whatever.

    It sounds like there are a few people on the club rides that you see as potentially being really good matches.

    Don't be afraid to collect email address, make Facebook friends, whatever. When you want to go on a ride, email the people you think it would be fun to ride with. I find I'm lucky if I get a 50% "yes" rate, even from the group that I've been riding with a lot, but that means if I email several people, I frequently get a couple, and I think MTB gets unwieldy with more than four people anyway. So if I measure success as how often I get to ride as part of a group of 2-4 at a pace I like... I'd say I'm doing pretty well. Also, go on other people's rides. You're going to get ride invites too if you do this. It saves you from organizing and nobody likes the guy who has to be the leader all the time. Also, I saw a few new-to-me trails this season.

    Finally, it's good to have clear expectations. I'll probably never do heart rate zoned workouts with other people, and I doubt I'll do pace-zoned workouts on the bike with other people either, although I think it works quite well running. So if you're doing something really specific, just go do it. Don't tell anybody, they'll drag you out of your target in one direction or another. If you want to ride with friends, don't expect to nail your effort as precisely as you can if your only friend is Mr. Polar.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  9. #9
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    Somewhere in between the two riding groups you described fall most of us 'other riders.' I'd expect that there are more of 'us' than 'them,' to tell you the truth. Honestly, that's probably why I spend so much time on MTBR -- it is kind of an outlet for the my biking thoughts, since I don't really have my own group to discuss them with. Between career and family and civic obligations and other hobbies and interests, I don't ride as much as the hardcore, every day, super fit riders. But I have ridden a lot over the last 15 years, have the tech skills comparable with most anyone out there, spend money on my bike and equipment, and like to really give it a go when I get the chance. I'm also in the subset of riders that prefers downhill to XC, likes riding lifts and shuttling, so my riding interests aren't on all fours with many people who don't get into that stuff.

    I know a few people with similar interests, riding abilities, and so forth, but coordinating rides can be a real hassle, and I don't want to be a 'flake.' My work demands are varied, my family comes first, and as a result, I often don't know if I'm going to be able to ride until about 20 minutes before I leave. My solution is largely to ride alone.

    Which works fine for me because mountain biking is inherently a solitary sport -- 90% of the time on the trail, I can't really talk to anyone, I've got to get thru the trail on my own, and I've found that it doesn't really detract from my ride at all to be alone. Actually, I kinda like it. I can go as fast or slow as I want, I can think about what I want to think about, and just do my thing -- it is one of the few times in my otherwise hectic life when I can move at my own schedule! Group ride social dynamics can be so tiresome and cumbersome, it is really nice not to have to deal with them too often. Honestly, half the time I ride with a group, I find myself wondering why I wanted to do it. But I'm not an overly social person anyway.

    So I don't really have an answer for you other than don't be afraid to ride alone, and focus on the good parts of it.
    '11 Specialized Enduro Expert for the trails
    '13 Felt Z4 for the road

  10. #10
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    So swingset, you live in Ohio? Find a mountain bike club that does organized rides, start with the beginner ride. Go from there. You will find that people of the same level will ride together. I live MA, north of Boston. Being a NEMBA member is great. I can ride with the North Shore, Greater Boston or Merrimack Valley chapters when ever the ride schedule is convenient for me. During most of the year there is a ride posted almost every day. Most of the group meetups have a slower and a faster groups.
    Ever try large Mt bike event?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigbadwulff View Post
    I could care less about "fitting in" with any one group. I'm well beyond the "fitting in" stage of life.
    My not fitting in doesn't have anything to do with image or a bromance, I merely meant most people I know are at one extreme or the other and make it difficult to ride with. They probably feel the same about me, which I see from other posts I'm not alone in finding.
    "Wait, this thing doesn't have a motor?" - Socrates

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by leeboh View Post
    So swingset, you live in Ohio? Find a mountain bike club that does organized rides, start with the beginner ride. Go from there. You will find that people of the same level will ride together. I live MA, north of Boston. Being a NEMBA member is great. I can ride with the North Shore, Greater Boston or Merrimack Valley chapters when ever the ride schedule is convenient for me. During most of the year there is a ride posted almost every day. Most of the group meetups have a slower and a faster groups.
    Ever try large Mt bike event?
    For the large number of riders and the numerous trails here, I don't see many organized rides...or if they are out there I'm having trouble finding them. The one regular meet-n-ride I see posted on my FB group is during the week on a night when I can't do it. I've searched the local group pages, forums, LBS, even here for such regular rides but they're sporadic. It usually seems spontaneous between people who ride together a lot, two or three guys. I've asked to join a couple of those and always been welcomed, but invariably these are guys who are hardcore into it. Or, as I said in the OP I've met guys who are very new or very slow and then it's just the opposite extreme (if they show, most times I hear excuses).

    I've done a few big rides early on, but they were mostly more serious riders and the pace was well above my comfort level. I lagged behind all day, felt like an anchor, and limped home. Everyone has been nice enough, but there were no groups or pace...everyone took off and was gone. The last one I did the group didn't even stop until 8 miles into the trail and it's a hilly mofo. At 8 miles, I was dying after so many technical climbs. I had crashed hard, too, and it really took it out of me. As soon as I get to the stopped group, the guy out in front wants to know if I'm good to take off again - I mean like the instant I stop and my legs are still shaking and I'm sucking wind. I just waved everyone on and turned around and pedaled home. It was clear I was holding the group up...and their impatience was a clear sign they were not enjoying me holding them up.

    I think that's what makes this harder than my other hobbies. If I golf with someone who sucks, or is really good, it doesn't hinder my game too much either way. If I ride motorcycles with someone who's a little slow, we're talking 55mph instead of 65. Big whoop. But with this if I ride with someone who's on another level, I'm back to riding alone....either waiting, or trying to play catchup. They can ride all day, I can't. Or, they are going at walking pace and I barely get my heartrate going. I can see why so many people just say **** it and do it solo. That's ok, sometimes, but it's boring and risky to me.
    "Wait, this thing doesn't have a motor?" - Socrates

  13. #13
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    Just go

    "Fitting" or not is unimportant to me, but having a group enhances the experience for many. I posted once before about deciding to "just go" or to get mired with all the intangibles about joining a different group.

    I always "just go".

    I have ridden with fast guys who dragged me along until they were sure I could find my way back by myself and I've led groups where I was the fastest. Keep showing up and finding those other riders who are just hanging on the back of the fast group or who are towing the slow group. You will find a compatible group. But you still have to show up.

    Check out the local club rides (see ohiosingletrack.com, or spokejunkies, which might be right in your wheelhouse. SJ's have enough attendance that multiple ride groups form almost every time - hammerheads to newbs). I'm with CAMBA. This is how I found "my group". We do trips and rides in OH and PA, with smaller "factions" doing their own group thing in MI, GA, TN, NY, NC, PA, IN as it suits them.

    All that said, the "faction" I usu. ride with is really fun for riding, camping, drinking, hiking, racing... but I still ride alone most of the time.

    I am probably one of the most annoying people to ride with. Nobody wants me behind them but I can't stay out front. So where do I fit in? I kinda don't.

    -F
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  14. #14
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    I sound similar to the OP. Fortunately I have found 2-4 guys that are in my 'neighborhood' of riding pace and skill. I just went last week with a group of more 'hardcorers'. It was certainly a misfit, but at least we could stay together after the ride.

    Seeing as I have a relatively non-competitive mentality on the trails, I can hold-up or wait on other riders with little impact on my enjoyment.

  15. #15
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    I ride alone pretty much all year round, it's just so much easier to ride like I want to, I can spend a couple of hours riding paths in a local park that's not much more than two miles long by one mile wide,and I can just jump on my bike whenever it suits me, when I ask others to come on a ride I feel like I have to think of a decent 20-30 mile loop and make a day of it.

    I sometimes go on a ride with a bunch of guys that involves making a whole weekend of it, arrive wherever on the friday night, have a few drinks and socialise, do an all day ride on the saturday and then party that night in whatever town we're staying, then head for home with hangovers on the sunday afternoon, i'm far from the fittest in the bunch but i'm probably the best at handling my bike, a couple of the guys are on a par and usually right behind me going down the hills, a few of the others can climb like mountain goats due to stamina but I keep up with them because my skill takes me up the rough stuff better than them, all in all these weekends are brilliant weekends but for the most I ride alone, just as well i'm perfectly comfortable riding alone.

    The injury factor is always a worry, i've been seriously injured twice in all my years riding while out riding alone and my mobile phone has saved me both times, I tend not to think about it too much but I do check my signal whenever i'm somewhere remote
    I scurry away with my hardtail between my legs

  16. #16
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    I find that at the ripe ol' age of 54 that I don't fit in very well. I was never a speedster in my younger years and of course I'm not even close to that now. It doesn't help that my ride is a 33lb AM rig either, the next bike will be a lighter build but that isn't hap'nin for a couple more years...my son's law school tuition ain't cheap!

    Anyway, I ride solo most of the time and I'm OK with that. I'm on my own schedule, I ride at my own pace and ride the route I like to ride. Actually I get in a better workout when I ride solo because it's 3 solid hours of riding. When I ride with someone we're out on the trail for 3 hours but some of that time is spent stopping and gabbing. It's all good though...any ride's a good ride I always say

  17. #17
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    count me as another in the "mostly solo" crowd.

    I started riding almost exclusively in groups, so it was a difficult adjustment to make. but I didn't have much choice. I lived for awhile in a city where I couldn't find anyone nearly as out-of-shape as I was, so group rides weren't an option. I moved from there to a small city where I was lucky to find another rider at all. Over the years, I met a few guys who rode, but scheduling a ride with just one of them proved to be too much of a pain.

    so, if I wanted to ride at all, I had to ride alone. I'm in better shape now, for what it's worth, and could hang with a group. I do miss those Ohio campout/group rides, though.

  18. #18
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    My two pennies:

    1. Find people who like to ride the same types of trails and the same riding style. To me, enjoying the same types of trail matters more than the distance between your bikes.

    2. Riding alone is okay too.

    3. Get over being the slowest in the group. If you need more time to rest, take it.


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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slee_Stack View Post
    Seeing as I have a relatively non-competitive mentality on the trails, I can hold-up or wait on other riders with little impact on my enjoyment.
    Yep, that is one of the great things about riding, at least to me. I can take a relative beginner on most trails, and just wait a few minutes every so often for them to catch up. This weekend we had relatives in town: my brother, who is about my speed, his wife, who is a little slower, and my mom, who is a little slower still. We just waited at the junctions or every so often where the trail afforded a nice break and shot the breeze until they caught up. Was fun for everyone.

    The only time I've been frustrated by this was on an informal group ride where some guy designates himself as the ride leader somehow, and seems to manage to be in front of the group on all the fun, fast downhill sections, holding up others who would like to go a little faster. But usually, everyone in a group is self-aware enough to sort things out so that no one is held up by anyone else.
    '11 Specialized Enduro Expert for the trails
    '13 Felt Z4 for the road

  20. #20
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    I can understand where you're coming from. Riding with people of different fitness/skill levels is difficult. You often end up going too slow or having to push too hard for the majority of the time. I generally like to go fast and push myself, which doesn't match the riding styles of some of my friends. We usually get separated and group up at some point along the way. Sometimes we also stop and session jumps or go bushwacking looking for new trail. I think that you just need to either find people who ride the same way you do (which can be tough) or just ride solo sometimes and with a group other times. It's good to mix it up ultimately, but I can completely understand your frustration because I'm often in the same boat.

  21. #21
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tystevens View Post
    The only time I've been frustrated by this was on an informal group ride where some guy designates himself as the ride leader somehow, and seems to manage to be in front of the group on all the fun, fast downhill sections, holding up others who would like to go a little faster. But usually, everyone in a group is self-aware enough to sort things out so that no one is held up by anyone else.
    Just give Mr. Pointman a proper head start. I learned to give the person ahead of me four turns when I was skiing. Doing something similar works pretty well on MTBs too.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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